Perspective: Numbers 21-36
Notes of Numbers 21-36 by Donnie Young
(Note: The word document I keep my notes in does not transfer very well to this website. I am sorry for the and I will try to do what I can to help that as I can. It mostly messes with bullet points and spacing. It makes it look very messy. Looks good when I am done with it from my side but when I put it here it looks like trash. I do what I can but unfortunately there just is not much I can do at this time. I will see what I can do to help this in the future but seeing as I am not sure anyone even reads this at the moment I cannot spare extra time "fixing" something I am not sure no one is even going to see.)
Chapter 21: Israel destroys Arad, bronze serpent, camp movements, Sihon & Og defeated
Given the order all this is written I am going to assume we are near the end of their 40 years. Aaron died in the last chapter and based on the math of other scripture we know there is only a few years between the death of Aaron and Israel crossing the Jordan.
While this is not the first battle for Israel it is the first of this generation that we know of. They lost but then asked God if they could retaliate. They also promised that if allowed they would devote them to destruction. This is a near blasphemous thought on how we should act as Christians today don't you think? Yet here we are looking at Israel coming out of slavery and entering into the promised land and they not only ask if they can devote these people and cities to destruction but God allows it! This reminds me of something though. Christianity has nearly covered the world over 2000 years and been very blessed with winning battles. Yet, there is one aspect they we have lacked. We have not devoted pagan practices to destruction. Instead... we have repurposed them and claimed them for God. This is not the way. This is not how God wants us to do things. We will see in Deuteronomy 12 that God does not want us to learn the way these nations. He wants us to obey Him and Him alone. When we take the ways of the pagans and use them to worship God we disobey God. The way it is supposed to work is we spread the ways of God through Christ and not add into our worship the ways of the nations. We devote those ideas to destruction just as we devote our own flesh to destruction in order to serve God. We do not find anywhere in scripture the idea of taking a practice of the nations and incorporating into the worship of God and it being considered a good thing. If God does not want your sin in His kingdom He also does not want your pagan practices either. They have no place in the kingdom of God as they have no root in Him.
God does give them permission. I also did a word search of Arad and found that there is a person named Arad in 1 Chronicles, the land is mentioned in Judges but the last mention of them as a people is in Joshua as one of the groups Joshua defeated. I am even of a mind that this reference in Joshua is actually back to this event in Numbers 21. Thus, Arad really was devoted to destruction.
4-9 seems a bit out of place. We just read of the people being attacked and winning a battle and we move directly into them messing up again. Now they are not happy with the food they do have. They are being impatient on the timing of God. Well... if they have been paying attention then I am sure they are aware of it being near the end of the 40 years but they seem to have reached their limit on being able to wait on God. So, they complain. God sends serpents to bite them. Then, as Moses intercedes for them God tells Moses to make a serpent and put it on a pole. Then if they are bitten they can look at the serpent on the pole and be healed. This is an obvious reference to Christ hanging on a tree.
10-20 fills in some of the gaps as to where Israel made it's camps. In v14 we also see a reference to a book called “Book of the wars of the LORD”. This is the first reference to a book that we no longer have today that I know of in scripture. Now... let us think logically for a moment. If this little note was written by Moses then this book is an on going book now and Moses is pointing to it or this is a book already in circulation. The only other real option is that an early scribe made this note joining this event and the event in this book together.
21-35 is the telling of the story of 2 more Israelite victories. Sihon and Og are defeated. It begins very similar to how they wanted to go through Edom but Edom not only did not allow them but chased them off. However, this time God allows them to fight back and because God was with them they won. They take the cities and seem to use them as bases of operations. Og gets in on the action and is also defeated.
Chapter 22: Balak, Balaam and the talking donkey.
We are now in the land of Moab according to Numbers 22. Now... according to this text we specifically “beyond the Jordan at Jericho” and that puts Israel in the “promised land”. Why is this important? I have been taught my whole life that Moses never entered into the promised land. I am sure we can say that to some of the areas but we simply cannot say that to all the areas that we call the promised land. It is just an interesting point is all.
Balak is the king Moab and fears Israel so he sends a message to the elders in Midian. This is the same Midian that Moses lived in and married into. Something else very interesting that I am just not sure what to make of is that Balak is the son of Zippor and sends to the elders of Midian for help. Moses's wife is named Zipporah and is from Midian. I am not sure if something is being said without it being said here. I just find it a bit odd is all.
Let us keep in mind that in the distant suture we are going to see the fall of Jericho and they are literally just outside of Jericho in this chapter. I wonder if the reason Jericho gives up without a fight in the future is because this dread had been there for so long that they just didn't have a will to fight.
So, Balak says that Midian has a reputation. Why they bless is blessed and who they curse is cursed. So, he wants them to come down and curse Israel. So they take Balak's money to Balaam. Interestingly enough is that God talks with Balaam. From the context this is not the first time. So... if you think only Israel has prophets from God then think again.
God tells Balaam not to go because they are blessed. Balaam tells the men God's message and sends them away.
Balak is not happy and sends more back and even people of more stature. Balaam tries to explain he cannot go against the command of God but says he will ask. God then says this.
“If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them but only do what I tell you.”
Sounds like a go right?
Wrong. God has already given His answer. So, why seek a different answer? God was not wrong in giving of His first response so why would he change His mind? When God gives an answer you do not like do you seek to change His mind? Why? I do not get that. I get it if you feel He has not answered you at all yet but once it is answered why seek a different answer? Was His answer not enough for you?
God gets upset that he went... So upset in fact that an angel goes to block his way. Balaam does not take the hint. Matter of fact Balaam does not take the hint several times! How many times does God block our path but we just keep trying to push through? I know I have in my past. I thought I knew what was best. I knew what God said but I also thought “God wants me to be happy as well so he should bless this!”.
At some point there is no pressing forward. The donkey who has avoided the angel on multiple occasions now has no way to go. So... the donkey just laid down! I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say that if you are not moving forward you might as well be moving away from God but I say... sometimes you need to just lay down because if you move forward God might just take you out.
So, as Balaam is beating his donkey God opens it's mouth to speak. We learn that Balaam has had this donkey for a long time and that it's been a good donkey. Yet, Balaam is acting foolishly and not paying attention to what is going on. Remember, this is a prophet who hears the voice of God who is being a complete idiot in this moment. Maybe it is fame or money or maybe something else. All I really know is that Balaam is in danger of death at this point for disobeying God's first instruction on this subject. This is a lesson to all of us today as well. Be very cautious when saying God has changed His mind on a subject.
After a conversation between the donkey, Balaam and the angel we hear the angel allow Balaam to continue with the men. But he reminds him to only speak what God allows. Once again... this is another reference to the Messiah!
'I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. '
The rest of this chapter is Balak meeting Balaam. Balak seems to be between gratitude and offense upon meeting Balaam. Balaam once again trying to explain he is not his own person. He can only do what God allows.
This is a very interesting story. We end this chapter with Balak doing some sacrifices then taking Balaam to see some of the Israelites.
Chapter 23: Balaam blesses Israel twice
Balaam and Balak perform sacrifices on 7 altars. So here is my first question. Why 7? If this is of the nations and not of God's people... why would 7 have any meaning to them? Why a bull and a ram? Why burnt offerings? Why does this sacrifice appear to be holy but reek with paganism? Because it is a perversion of what is holy. Just like many things we do today have the appearance of holiness but lack backing from God Himself. Case in point... Sunday over Sabbath. Sabbath is commanded but Sunday is the traditional day of gathering together as Christians. One is set apart by God and one is set apart by man.
God gives Balaam a message of blessing for Israel. I am not going to pretend I fully understand the poetic language of this blessing. I know that everyone there understood this as a blessing and not what they paid for. Balaam explained that he can only say what God allows. This is of course because he fully understands that to not do this is to die at this point. So we do have to question the intention of his heart. So... Balak wants to try again.
New location, same plan! I am sure it will work this time.
So... I understand this one better. The first was was about counting the people and wanting to die upright like them... yeah. This one though... Lets just read the whole thing.
'And Balaam took up his discourse and said, “Rise, Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it. He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob, nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, ‘What has God wrought!’ Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself; it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey and drunk the blood of the slain.” '
Even this one... by the way. Do you see why we need to pay attention to when God talks plainly through Moses vs talking by vision through another prophet? Let the plain be the foundation.
So, after all this Balak is upset that Balaam is blessing Israel instead of cursing them. Yet, Balaam keeps telling Balak “I can only say what God tells me to say.” I really like Balaam in this story. By no means do I think he is the best role model my any stretch but this guy knows his place at this moment. He cannot go against the will of God and can only say what God tells him to say so... that is what he says. If we all treated our own witness of God like Balaam does... well... we would be better off for it to be honest.
This chapter ends just prior to the third attempt at cursing Israel so that will be part of the next chapter.
Chapter 24: Balaam's 3rd round of blessings
Balaam did not go up like the other 2 times. Instead he simply looked towards the wilderness at the camps of Israel and blesses them. This blessing/prophecy is pretty simple. It is about both both blessing and curse. Healing and wrath. Balak's final response to Balaam is in typical fashion. He cannot understand why Balaam cannot simply curse Israel and be done with it. Balaam then gives Balak a parting gift. An unwanted prophecy about the latter days. More or less this seems to be Balaam saying that in the end one from Jacob will rule the whole world. I do find it interesting that the ESV says a “star shall come out of Jacob”. This could mean a few things. In a handful of chapters we will be in Deuteronomy and in 1:10 Moses says “The LORD your God has multiplied you and behold you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven”. Same word in the Greed LXX. Is this what Balaam is talking about?
' “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” '
Stars here is the same and the only time the same word is used in the 4 gospel accounts. Interestingly enough is that Balaam's prophecy is not just about the Messiah but about the concurring king specifically. To me, this is a prime example of a prophecy have a cyclical nature. It does not have a single fulfillment but possibly multiple. We can say Deuteronomy 1:10 is a fulfillment and the event being talked about in Luke 21 is a fulfillment and be correct on both accounts. Just as we can say Passover in Exodus 12 is a fulfillment and the crucifixion of Christ is a Passover fulfillment and be correct both times.
How about this. The desecration of the Temple a few hundred years prior to Christ by Antiochus Epiphanes is a fulfillment of Daniel, the destruction and desecration of the Temple in 70AD is a fulfillment of Daniel and there is another yet to come.
Or what I should say is one is still ongoing as we are the living Temple.
Chapter 25: Israel camps in Midian and is tempted into idol worship
First, I want to put up some geography to clear up a statement I made incorrectly last week. I was discussing with a friend about Jericho and Moses and he was telling me how Jericho was actually really close to the border between the Jordan and the other nations. He pulled up a map and all this made a lot more since. I knew Jericho was near Jerusalem but I for some reason just assumed it was not close to the border of other nations. So, this still allows Moses to still be on the other side of the Jordan and not be inside of Israel. So, I am very glad my friend was able to help me better understand that.
If you come into chapter 25 without prior context you will most likely walk away with some huge misunderstandings. First, you will miss the fact they just a few chapters prior they were complaining about the food they had to eat. Also, you will miss the fact that Midian is one of the few “allies” they have if the area. They have tried to play nice with everyone else and they have only been meet with hostility. We are only given the name of the town of Shittim at first but we learn we are in Midian near the end of the chapter. If I were to just read Chapters 22-24... I would actually really like Balaam and think he was an awesome guy. I even said as much last week during the perspective video. Balaam only said the words God gave him during those chapters. Yet, look at his actions. He enticed Israel to follow after false gods with women and meat offered up to these false gods. This caused them to bow down and worship these false gods. Of course, we actually didn't know it was Balaam to blame till must later in the story. So, let me ask you a question... when you are doing the will of God would you rather be meet with hostility or kindness wrapped in sin? I am here to tell you that many of Christians today are buying into kindness wrapped in sin. Let us look at a few commandments already given that Israel is in gross violation of.
' “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction. '
'Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD , whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. '
'So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations. “And you shall say to them, Any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD , that man shall be cut off from his people. '
These are other references I could make but these are the simple on the nose ones that are directly relevant to what we are talking about. I did a short (https://youtu.be/f9f9I0Ve0E4) and a long video (https://youtu.be/w6qjzDcGDn4) about this very idea. See, there is something called “Halal” food today. This is food that is permitted according to Islamic dietary instruction. There is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion concerning what Halal is. I am not going to cover all of that now. If you care, I will leave a link for both the short and long videos in the description of this video. What I will say is that Halal meat is killed in a ritualistic manner and blessed in the name of their god. Therefore, I believe it to be a sin to purchase and consume such things as you are doing the opposite as devoting such things to destruction. Halal is a very small part of what I cover in my video but it is how it is most relevant to us today from my own personal estimation. Moving on.
So, after this great sin is committed God wants to root out the evil. Let us pay attention to how God has worked from the beginning. God works from the top down. God does not come in and just punish the weak who are just trying to survive. No, he punishes those who are in charge of things. So, God says “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun.” Who does Yeshua get the most upset with? The woman at the well? Or the religious leaders? How does Yeshua talk to Pilot? Even though Pilot is a leader of the Romans he doesn't actually talk to him like he is one in charge of very much.
Moses springs into action and begins to root out the evil. 24,000 people of Israel died. What ended the plague? The zeal of a man named Phinehas. Phinehas is the son of Eleazar and I suppose is the next in line for High Priest. By his actions I guess that is cemented here. So, an Israelite man brings a Midianite woman to the Tabernacle in the sight of everyone including Moses. It is unclear to me who is weeping but I think it is Moses, Eleazar and Phinehas who are weeping. Phinehas takes a spear and kills the man and woman and his zeal is compared to the zeal of the LORD and ends the plague.
The LORD then says it is Phinehas's line that will continue the priesthood. This reminds me in similar fashion how God went through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob confirming his covenant with all 3. So, in this case it is it is Aaron, Eleazar and Phinehas. When David hits the scene it will be David, Solomon then Rehoboam. This is also called a covenant of peace and I find that interesting. This is one of those covenants where a sign is not given. I want to point out there are at the very least 3 kinds of covenants in scripture.
These are between men and may or may not have anything to do with God. God does want us to keep out word though.
God is not man that He makes useless promises. Anything God says is truth. However, if he attaches the word covenant to it you can hang your hat on it that it will not change.
God made and God sealed with a sign
Some promises are sealed with a sign. While I do not think these are “more true”... I do not know why God gives a sign for these and not all of his covenants. So far, there is no doubt that He has given 3 signs for covenants.
Rainbow: Will not flood earth to destroy all flesh
Circumcision: Abraham and his offspring will inherit the promised land as an everlasting possession
Sabbath: That it is the LORD who sanctifies His people.
I am not going to speculate at this point why these 3 have signs and others do not. I am simply pointing out that I notice these types of things. We end the chapter with God telling Moses to strike the Midianites down but we do not see this happen till chapter 31. I honestly do not get gaps like this but... here we are.
Please take notice that the Israelite who is killed by Phinehas is from the tribe of Simeon. I think this important because of something odd in the next chapter. I will take about that in my notes for next chapters I simply wanted to point it out here.
Chapter 26: Census of the New Generation
A chapter heading I agree with! This is literally names and numbers.
Korah's rebellion:250 But the sons of Korah did not die v12
Simeonites: 22200 (-37100)
Gad: 40500 (-5100)
Judah: 76500 (+1900)
Issachar: 64300 (+9900)
Zebulunites: 60500 (-3100)
Manasseh: 52700 (+20500)
Ephraim: 32500 (-8000)
Benjamin: 45600 (+10200)
Asher 53400 (+11900)
Naphtali: 45400 (-800)
601730 total people
For those keeping track this is about 2000 total people less than when we started back in chapter 1. Considering it has been 40 years that is not great news. However... we just learned 24,000 people died just before this count. We also know of at least 2 recent battles as well as that whole bronze serpent indecent where “many” died. I am just going to say that essentially have the same number of people after all that is probably a good thing and a blessing they have not been decimated.
Now, did you notice the 37000 difference from Simeon 40 years ago? Manasseh, Benjamin, Asher and Issachar had big jumps in numbers as it were. Simeon has a huge hit. Both Gad and Ephraim also took huge blows but for now... I am only going to focus on Simeon. But before I do that... lets go ahead and get into chapter 27 because its going to make more sense.
Chapter 27: How inheritance works when things don't go to plan.
Verses 1-11 are all about how to deal with land when men die and a clear line of inheritance is not set. While this is a good blueprint for us to follow today this is an “in the land law” and meant for the promised land specifically and for keeping the land among God's people.
I wanted to cover that quickly because of Simeon though. See, I believe that somehow this discussing on inheritance, the huge drop in Simeon numbers and the fact that this Israelite was of Simeon are all connected. See, this would also explain why there is a gap between God giving the order to strike Midian and the event because this needs to be taken care of. If this does not get taken care if this will never be understood.
Now, I could absolutely be wrong. The daughters talked about here at the beginning of chapter 27 are of Manasseh... but is it not odd that the tribe with the largest increase is the one that is at the center of this discussion on the heels of Simeon taking such a devastating blow? I just find the whole thing a little bit odd is all and wish to point it out.
The rest of chapter 27 is God telling Moses that his time is near. That Joshua will lead Israel and that Moses will transfer some of his authority over to Joshua.
Chapter 28: Laws for offerings.
Here is the short list.
The LORD instructs offers to be twice a day. A lamb in the morning and a lamb in the evening. At each offering there will be a grain offering and a drink offering.
Every Sabbath there will be 2 male lambs a year old without blemish. 2 grain offerings and a drink offerings beside the regular offerings.
New Moon offerings will be 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 male lambs 1 year old without blemish, 3 grain for each bull, 2 grain for the ram, and a grain for every lamb, a drink offering for each offering as well. Also, a goat for a sin offering each new moon. These are beside the regular offerings.
Passover is on the 14th of the first month. The 15th begins the feasts for 7 days. 1st day is a holy convocation you will do no ordinary work but offer a food offering and burnt offering. 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 male lambs a year old w/o blemish with grain offering for each bull, ram and lamb, goat for sin offering to make atonement. Make these beside the regular morning offering. Do these all 7 days of the feast. Hold a holy convocation on the 7th day. You shall not do any ordinary work.
Feast of Weeks also called Pentecost. Holy convocation no ordinary work. Burnt offering. 2 bulls, 1 ram, 7 lambs 1 year old w/o blemish. Grain with each bull, ram and lamb. Goat for sin offering to make atonement. See that these offerings are without blemish.
Chapter 29: Continue the offerings
Feast of Trumpets is 1st day of 7th month. Holy convocation you shall not do any ordinary work. Blow trumpets. Burnt offerings. Bull, ram, 7 lambs with the grain and the goat for the sin offering as with the other appointed times. Remember the New Moon offerings as well.
Day of Atonement is 10th day of 7th month. Holy Convocation Afflict yourselves. NO WORK. Burnt offering. Bull, ram, 7 lamb, grain and goat for sin offering and the goat sin offering for day of Atonement as well. Interestingly enough... I do not see “and the Sabbath offerings” even though Atonement is calling Sabbath of Sabbaths in at least one place. Just pointing that out.
Feast of booths is 15th of 7th month. Holy convocation no ordinary work. Keep 7 days.
Offering section is long and repetitive. So here is the break down.
1st day: 13 bulls. 2 rams. 14 male lambs 1 year old. (all with grain). Goat for sin.
2nd day: 12 bulls. 2 rams. 14 lame lambs. Goat for sin.
3rd day: 11 bulls. 2 rams. 14 lambs. Goat for sin.
4th day: 10 bulls. 2 rams. 14 lambs. Goat for sin.
5th day: 9 bulls. 2 rams. 14 lambs. Goat for sin.
6th day: 8 bulls. 2 rams. 14 lambs. Goat for sin.
7th day 7 bulls. Rams. 14 lambs. Goat for sin.
8th day you will have a solemn assembly. NO ordinary work. 1 bull, 1 ram. 7 male lambs with grain for all. Goat for sin. Remember vow, freewill, burnt, grain, drink and peace offerings as well.
Few points not in the text I wanted to quickly talk about. The 8th day is not explained here. It goes from “keep 7 days” to “on the 8th day” with no reason given. So, you have to go back to Leviticus 23 to gain some kind of understanding of that. And even there is not much there so... maybe that is a wild goose chase. The best way I can explain it from my understanding is that the feast is 7 days but that the 8th day is an added day. Notice how the huge offerings go on for 7 days but stop on the 8th day? That's because the 8th day is not part of the “7 day festival”.